7 Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill This Summer

Estimated read time 9 min read

As summer temperatures rise across the US, so do your energy bills.

Experts have even predicted 2024 to be the hottest year on record worldwide. In many parts of the country, this means you might be running your air conditioner for months at a time. But there are plenty of ways to reduce those ballooning utility costs in summer, while still staying cool and comfortable. 

Here are a few ways to save money on energy costs this summer.

How your energy usage changes in the summer

Summer heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. In the 1960s, Americans could expect an average of two heat waves per year. But ever since the 2010s, an average of six heat waves have occurred per year. The duration of these heat waves has increased as well, from four days to five days over that same time period. The length of an average heat wave season in 50 American cities has nearly tripled. 

This means more households than ever are turning on the AC earlier and running it for longer periods of time. Households in parts of the country where air conditioners were once uncommon, are now increasingly using them to keep cool. This spike in energy use puts stress on the grid during extreme heat waves, making many areas of the US susceptible to blackouts

7 tips to save on electricity costs this summer

While running the air conditioner is non-negotiable in much of the country, especially in hotter states like Texas, California and Florida, there are plenty of strategies anyone can use to reduce their energy use. From simple household tweaks to larger energy efficiency projects, these tips can help keep your home comfortable and cut down on your energy costs all summer long. 

1. Clean and maintain your HVAC system

One of the best energy efficiency measures you can take to save on summer energy costs can actually help you out year-round. A clean, well-maintained HVAC system will run more efficiently and use less energy than one with a clogged filter or other issues. 

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“Everybody says this, but your filters are so important,” Marco Radocaj, owner of Balance HVAC, an HVAC service company in Vero Beach, Florida, told CNET. “If those are dirty, it’s going to mess things up.”

Check with the manufacturer of your HVAC system for guidance on when to clean washable filters or replace disposable ones. You’ll want to perform that maintenance at least every six months, though every three months may be ideal if you have pets. Schedule an annual visit from an HVAC professional to check out your system and make sure it’s in good working order. 

2. Set your thermostat to the right temperature  

How you use your AC unit can affect its ability to cool your home efficiently. Rather than turning your AC on and off, Radocaj recommends leaving it run at a comfortable temperature, even when you’re out of the house. Instead of allowing your space to warm up while the system is off and then turning on the AC when it gets too hot, it’s better to just maintain a set temperature. It might not seem like it, but you’ll actually use less energy this way.

“There’s a lot more power used every time it turns on than when it’s running,” Radocaj said. “The less it has to actually turn on, the better. That longer run time actually works out to pennies on the dollar in terms of energy consumption.”

That doesn’t mean you should never adjust your thermostat, however. The US Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to a warmer temperature during the summer. They recommend turning your thermostat up anywhere from 7-10 degrees for eight hours each day. This could save you up to 10% on your annual energy bills. For example, a comfortable temperature of 74 degrees means you would set your thermostat somewhere between 81 – 84 degrees to see savings. 

3. Get a home energy audit

Making your home more energy efficient can help reduce your energy costs — both by reducing overall energy use in the home and by making it easier for your AC to cool your space. Getting a home energy audit is a great first step. 

A professional auditor will inspect your home for leaks or gaps in areas like windows, doors, walls and floors. They’ll also look for places to beef up insulation and make other recommendations for a more energy-efficient home. Some utilities offer free or reduced-cost energy audits. You can also get a rebate of up to $150 on a home energy audit thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act

It’s important to perform an energy audit before embarking on large home improvement projects, like replacing windows or coating roofs, said Andrew Prchal, president of Gunner Roofing in Stamford, Connecticut.

“Getting an energy efficiency audit on the house can help make sure that any gaps or cracks can actually get sealed up,” he said.

4. Seal leaks and touch-up weatherstripping 

Whether you choose to get a home energy audit or not, you can still do your own inspection to find gaps where warm, humid air comes into your home and lets the cool, conditioned air escape outside. You can buy or rent an infrared camera or smartphone attachment to show you areas where warm air is coming in through your home’s exterior. Be on the lookout for any visible gaps or areas along windows and doors where weatherstripping is worn down. Once you’ve identified trouble spots, seal them up with new weatherstripping or caulk.

Prchal says whole-house window replacements can be a big project, but installing blinds as a short-term fix can go a long way to cutting energy costs during summertime. If the leaks are significant enough, a whole-house wrap can close those gaps and reduce heat gain.

5. Add shade and window coverings               

One of the best ways to keep your home cool is to keep heat from entering in the first place. The easiest way to do this is by simply keeping blinds and curtains closed throughout the day. Taking measures to shade the sunniest areas of your home, typically the western and southern-facing sides, with sun-blocking trees and shrubs can also reduce the surrounding air temperature by as much as 6 degrees Fahrenheit.

But it can take years for some plants to grow large enough to offer this benefit. That’s where window coverings like insulated cellular shades, thermal curtains and blinds, awnings and window films come in. 

“Windows are where all the heat pours in,” Prchal said. “Window coverings like blinds and films can significantly reduce the amount of heat that enters your home.”

These energy-efficient window treatments keep cool air in and warm air out while blocking sunlight, which experts say can account for up to 50 percent of the heat gain in your home. 

6. Install a smart thermostat

Programmable thermostats allow you to set a weekly schedule for your air conditioner, but smart thermostats take that convenience much further. These Wi-Fi-enabled devices can learn your habits and preferences to optimize your AC’s operation, track your energy use and even help you avoid paying more for energy in areas with time-of-use rates

“Smarter thermostats are very helpful to make sure that you’re not running your AC at a point when it’s significantly more expensive,” Prchal said. “They’re an awesome option.”

You can control most smart thermostats from an app on your phone that gives you access to data about your energy use at your fingertips. Your utility may offer discounts or rebates on smart thermostats, and they’re another energy-efficient incentive with the Inflation Reduction Act. 

7. Use fans wisely

Fans are an effective cooling tool that can help you delay the moment when you finally turn on your AC. Ceiling fans, in particular, can help keep the air from your AC moving, helping it reach as many parts of your home as possible. 

Exhaust fans in bathrooms or above stoves vent to the outside, which can be useful for getting hot air out of your home when needed. But leaving them running for too long can introduce warm, moist air into the space, making your air conditioner work harder. More moisture in the air means your AC unit has to work harder to dehumidify your home. Higher humidity can also make your space feel warmer than drier air at the same temperature. 

“It’s really easy and efficient to remove heat, but excess moisture just takes more energy to remove,” Radocaj said. “If you leave a window open by accident or run an exhaust fan, the system has to spend more of its power removing water than it does cooling the air.” 

Running your AC in fan-only mode can make its cooling function less effective for the same reason. Radocaj cautions against leaving your air conditioner’s fan on while the unit isn’t cooling. 

“People often leave their fans in the ‘on’ position all the time and think they’re circulating air,” he said. “But if you run that fan and the AC is not cooling, it’s pulling moisture off the coil and adding it to the space.”

Other ways to save on electricity costs

Helping your AC run as efficiently as possible and reducing heat gain in your home aren’t the only ways to save on your energy bills. Quick and easy upgrades like installing LED light bulbs and using smart plugs and power strips can help cut down on vampire energy use. Even simple things like always running full loads in your washing machine or dishwasher can make a difference. 

If you’ve been considering larger-scale projects to improve your home’s energy efficiency, installing solar panels can help you save money in the long run. Upgrading an aging HVAC system or air conditioner to a heat pump can also result in monthly savings, as new models are more efficient to run. Many of these pricey upgrades now come with rebates of as much as 30% off the total cost as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. 

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